Derm Spotlight: Is CBD Oil Safe for Pets?

CBD oil, or cannabidiol, is a compound found in the cannabis (or marijuana) plant. This is different from tetrahydrocaccabinol (THC), which is the compound in cannabis responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana, i.e. “feeling high.” CBD does not cause the “high” feeling and is not considered an illicit drug, meaning that it is legal to sell and use in the US.

CBD is a very hot topic right now and people are using it to treat everything from anxiety to acne to cancer. Many of our dermatology clients mention that they have tried using CBD in their pets. Because CBD is a relatively new trend, there is not a huge amount of research regarding its use in humans, and there is even less research in pets. In this issue, we would like to review what information is available.

CBD Research in Dogs

The earliest research into CBD use in dogs started in the 1980’s and these were simple pharmacokinetic studies, meaning researchers injected CBD into a few dogs and then measured the concentration of CBD in their bloodstream and urine.1 These studies don’t tell us much about the usefulness of CBD, but they did suggest that dogs can be given CBD without experiencing side effects.

CBD oil pets

More recently some studies have been published looking at the actual effects of CBD in dogs. In 2018, a study found that giving CBD to dogs with arthritis significantly decreased their pain and increased their activity level.2 In 2019, a study looked at dogs with severe epilepsy (seizures). They gave one group traditional anti-seizure medications and gave the second group traditional anti-seizure medications plus CBD. The CBD group had a significant reduction in seizure frequency, though 2 of the dogs in that group had to leave the study due to ataxia (incoordination, difficulty walking).3.These studies both line up with a survey done where US veterinarians said they discussed CBD most frequently as a potential treatment for anxiety, pain, or seizures.

What About the Skin?

As dermatology specialists, that’s what our clients care about the most. Unfortunately, there is not ANY scientific research studies published about the use of CBD in cat or dog skin disease. There are two studies reporting that cannabinoid receptors are present in the skin5 and hair follicles6 of dogs, but what does that mean? In humans, a few preliminary studies have found that CBD may help decrease skin inflammation7,8 so it’s possible that CBD could be helpful for pet skin disease, but we just don’t know for sure yet. Hopefully someone will study this more closely soon!

Additional Reading and Sources….
CBD Oil for Dogs: What You Need to Know
CBD Oil for Cats: What You Need to Know

1. Samara E, Bialer M, Mechoulam R. Pharmacokinetics of cannabidiol in dogs. Drug Metab Dispos. 1988 May-Jun;16(3):469-72.
2. Gamble LJ, Boesch JM, Frye CW, et al. Pharmacokinetics, Safety, and Clinical Efficacy of Cannabidiol Treatment in Osteoarthritic Dogs. Front Vet Sci. 2018 Jul 23;5:165. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2018.00165. eCollection 2018.
3. McGrath S, Bartner LR, Rao S, et al. Randomized blinded controlled clinical trial to assess the effect of oral cannabidiol administration in addition to conventional antiepileptic treatment on seizure frequency in dogs with intractable idiopathic epilepsy. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2019 Jun 1;254(11):1301-1308. doi: 10.2460/javma.254.11.1301.
4. Kogan L, Schoenfeld-Tacher R, Hellyer P, et al. US Veterinarians’ Knowledge, Experience, and Perception Regarding the Use of Cannabidiol for Canine Medical Conditions. Front Vet Sci. 2019 Jan 10;5:338. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2018.00338. eCollection 2018.
5. Campora L, Miragliotta V, Ricci E, et al. Cannabinoid receptor type 1 and 2 expression in the skin of healthy dogs and dogs with atopic dermatitis. Am J Vet Res. 2012 Jul;73(7):988-95. doi: 10.2460/ajvr.73.7.988.
6. Mercati F, Dall’Aglio C, Pascucci L, et al. Identification of cannabinoid type 1 receptor in dog hair follicles., Acta Histochem. 2012 Jan;114(1):68-71. doi: 10.1016/j.acthis.2011.01.003. Epub 2011 Mar 16.
7. Palmieri B, Laurino C, Vadalà M. A therapeutic effect of cbd-enriched ointment in inflammatory skin diseases and cutaneous scars. Clin Ter. 2019 Mar-Apr;170(2):e93-e99. doi: 10.7417/CT.2019.2116.
8. Petrosino S, Verde R, Vaia M, et al. Anti-inflammatory Properties of Cannabidiol, a Nonpsychotropic Cannabinoid, in Experimental Allergic Contact Dermatitis. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2018 Jun;365(3):652-663. doi: 10.1124/jpet.117.244368. Epub 2018 Apr 9.


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